New Zealand

Why I Chose Nelson When Moving to New Zealand

April 15, 2016
Nelson, New Zealand

One of the most common questions I get about moving to New Zealand is, “Out of all the places, how did you choose Nelson?”

New Zealand is a beautiful place with awesome places to live. Each city or town offers an array if different activities, scenery and wonderful people.

Being the little researcher I am, I spent hours Googling the best places to live in New Zealand. One of the most common places was Queenstown. Others included Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, Dunedin . All the bigger cities and towns.

Here was what I found and how I made my decision:


Most things I read said Auckland was just like any other city in the world and, compared to other places in New Zealand, not as cool or beautiful. This is just what I gathered from online forums, I didn’t actually spend any time in Auckland.


Wellington is the windiest city in the world (windier than Chicago). And it rains quite often. I’m just not about that.

I actually really enjoyed Wellington, it’s a unique and artsy fartsy city with a gorgeous harbour. A good day in Welly is absolutely stunning.


Just look at those mountains!!! Queenstown was my second choice if Nelson didn’t work out. It’s often on ‘most beautiful places in the world’ type lists. The reason I didn’t choose Queenstown was because I read it was full of tourists. This isn’t a bad thing because you can meet heaps of cool people, I just wanted the full kiwi experience hanging out with the locals.

It also gets fairly nippy in Queenstown so if you like skiing or snowboarding, this is the place for you.


Dunedin is basically a college town. Being a college graduate, I had no desire to be in a college town again. Also, it’s extremely cold down there.


Nelson was a bit of a toss up on the interwebs. Some people said it was completely boring and others said it was one of the best places in New Zealand. I knew it was going to be a less touristy place and I wanted to be around locals. For some reason, Nelson just felt right in my gut so I started looking for jobs and places to live. It’s nicknamed ‘Sunny Nelson’ so I figured I would enjoy a place with lots of sunshine. It’s also surrounded by three national parks so there are heaps of outdoor activities to do.

[EDIT: It came to my attention I didn’t actually tell you all if I enjoyed myself in Nelson.

Little did I know I would end up adoring Nelson – it’s become one of my favorite places on earth. They have a nice downtown area (or town, as they call it) and it’s right next to the beach. The people are amazing and I’m already planning my next trip back.]

Deciding where to live in New Zealand is an exciting process! Determine what you want out of it, what environment you like and activities you want to do.

Have you lived in New Zealand? Are you planning to move to New Zealand? I’d love to hear about your experience – let me know in the comments below!

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  • Reply Nick Quenneville November 11, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Hi Haley, I’m also considering moving to Nelson in January, Queenstown was my second choice too! I’m going to pursue my dream of being an environmental Scientist and golf pro. Queenstown has amazing golf courses but not so much the weather I’m looking for (must be cold in those lakes), whereas, Nelson seem much warmer and even though they only have one 18 hole course and one 9 hole, I’m pretty sure I can make due. How affordable is it to live there? I hear it may be tough to find work or living space?

    • Reply Haley Johnson January 17, 2017 at 3:37 am

      Hi Nick, Apologies for the delayed response! Life has been hectic lately. Have you made the move? I’d say that Queenstown is more expensive (and colder) than Nelson as it’s more touristy. I didn’t have any trouble finding a job or place to live although! I don’t remember meeting anyone who did actually. The hostels in New Zealand are pretty high quality so you could live in one while you look for a place to live. Hope that helps :)

  • Reply Ben September 1, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    Did you end up liking Nelson? It’s top on my list as well.

    • Reply Haley Johnson September 3, 2016 at 9:44 am

      Hi Ben, I loved Nelson. It’s one of my favorite places on earth – especially during their summer (January/February). It has a smaller town feel and it’s surrounded by three national parks, so there are heaps of outdoor activities to do. I hope you make it there!

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